End Date: August 25th
Author: Christopher Coleman
Pages: 318 (paperback)
Selected By: BillMo
“There is an ancient evil in the Back Country, dormant for centuries but now hungry and lurking. When it sets its sights on an unsuspecting mother one routine morning along an isolated stretch of highway, a quiet farming family is suddenly thrust into a world of unspeakable terror, and a young girl must learn to be a hero.”
That’s right. One lonely loner of a teacup. This book was pretty awful – it was, in fact, the longest 295 pages I have ever read; it took me three weeks to power through this thing. But I picked it, so I should suffer for it, I guess.
I saw a lot of good reviews, and this book was classified as a horror, so I thought, “Let’s give this a go.” I wish I’d gone somewhere else, and now I can’t help but think that some of the good reviews had to have been bribed or bought or from people who were related to the author – I mean, I recall seeing quite a few that said what a great heroine Gretel is, and… No. Absolutely not. You know who’s a great heroine? Mercy Thompson. But Gretel? Gretel is a self-centered fourteen-year-old child, and while I know that most teenagers are self-centered, this one also happens to do almost nothing in this story. Well, I mean, she does go steal a bunch of apples from her elderly neighbors, so I guess that’s something, but apart from that, she didn’t do a damn thing. I thought for sure it had to be leading to something, that she would run away from home to search for her missing mother and run into trouble and adventure along the way, but…
*****SPOILER ALERT*****→ She works in a damn orchard. That’s what she does. She was stealing from those nice old people, and they gave her a damn job, and tra la effin’ la. And she rows a boat. And she goes to school. And by that reckoning, I guess I’m a bloody hero, too, then. ←*****END SPOILER*****
I also never really understood why she was being mean to the young love interest, Petr. She seemed to think extremely highly of herself, and apparently she and her mother possess some sort of super-duper power of intuition that makes it nearly impossible to surprise them (except that, though they can intuit everything throughout the story, it’s never really explained how it was that the witch was able to catch Gretel’s mom to begin with – probably would’ve been a good time for those superpowers to kick in right about then). So they’re just bopping along, and then suddenly, blam, there’s the thought, “Oh, I don’t know why I feel this way, but I do, and I’m gonna go with it, and everything will be alright.” And gosh, golly, lookee here, I was right, ya’ll!
What the what, man. What the what.
I don’t know that there’s anything else left in me to even squeeze out about this book. I’m sorry if you read it on my recommendation and it left you feeling as if you’d wasted your time. If you liked it, I’m not going to apologize for this review at all – you do you. But I will not, cannot, shall not recommend it, and if you have the money to buy it, I would not spend it; it wasn’t worth it, it hurt my brain, and it left me feeling a little more insane.
I had quotes, but I don’t want to ride this ride anymore.
BillMo’s Favorite Character(s): None. None at all.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.
This is going to be very brief. I cannot say that I outright hated this novel. Although the author did his best to try to modernize the story, I can say it was very painful to get through. In all honesty, all of the filler did not move the story along, nor did it add any value to it. In fact, I was constantly asking, “why are you doing this to us?” I also thought, maybe this is a translation, no joy, folks. Plain ole English speaker who had a glimmer of an idea that was executed so poorly, the horror was we had to endure it.
The book was deceiving, because at the start, it appeared promising. We now have a motive for the witch, vice her just eating children. Her desperate situation becomes apparent rather quickly, though I couldn’t really empathize when she had survived centuries. How much is too much? You’ve lived a good long life and in solitude. Was it really worth it? If you become batshit insane, I would say not.
To go hand in hand with her greed, we then add in the male characters. *****SPOILER ALERT*****→ The dominate patriarchal characters in this book, Deda, Heinrich and Officer Stenson are utterly useless. Each man has a serious character flaw individually. Heinrich is weak minded, Officer Stenson is underhanded, and all three are greedy men. Rather than stand on their own two feet and take the lot given to them in life, they keep reaching beyond, just like the witch. While this was meant to be the twist (I suppose), I was less than impressed, stunned or verklempt as the author would have liked. ←*****END SPOILER*****
Anika and Gretel were scarcely better. I could barely empathize with Anika. What idiot wanders away from the main road into the forest to find assistance? One who deserves to be murdered. Yes, I said it. Survival of the fittest. I would have preferred that she was knocked unconscious during her vehicle accident and discovered by the witch. I would have had a bit more empathy for her if that was the case. Her survival instincts upon capture is much better and I could actually relate to that portion of her character. We can say that because she was being fattened up, she should not be mentally slow at this point. However, there are a couple of scenes, that while she has every right to be confused, it just dragged on too long.
Gretel, is possibly the most judgmental fourteen-year-old ever. She judges her father, Officer Stenson, Petr, Hansel and Odalinde. While I can see that she would be a bit frustrated at having to run the household while her mother was away, and her father was bedridden, but the amount of judgement rolling of this kid is insane. She should be a forty-year-old jaded woman vice a fourteen-year-old. She takes matters into her own hands when Hansel and she seem to be destined to starve in their own home. I like that she threw herself into her work for the sake of her family and her betterment. However, her attitude left a lot to be desired.
As for Hansel, he was almost a useless periphery character. He’s an eight-year-old who is pretty well sheltered and helpless for the most part. His innocence is believable, but something still bothered me. No, I still haven’t put my finger on it, but there were times when I wanted to choke him.
I didn’t particularly care for Odalinde initially and I was suspicious of her. However, the author turns on a dime to endear her to us. I go from, “who is this heifer” to “no, don’t let her die”. Not because the author effected a great transition in explaining her position and status, but how she reacted in attempting to help the children in the final confrontation.
Petr as a pawn. That was the gist of his role. He was a pawn of his fathers. He was a pawn from Gretel’s behavior. He’s a likeable kid, but his presence was superfluous to me. Does his appearance in the book move the story along? Absolutely not, but hey, why not have a girl meets boy element in the novel? He is an unknowing herald of the ill-intent of his father, call it intuition. However, in general him being a beautiful dark curly-haired, brilliant blue-eyed boy does very little for me.
Finally, the Khlars. They are the characters that make the most sense to me. They are a safe haven for Gretel. While they had no dealings with the Morgan family, they took pity on the teen to make sure that she could provide for herself and her brother. They are upstanding citizens who only intervene when absolutely necessary and are primed to hold your confidence if you so choose.
All in all, there were a few, very few, bright spots in this novel. It could have been one hundred fifty pages vice the two hundred and ninety-six. So much filler that added very little substance to the novel killed me. At best, this should have been a short story that left you wanting more, versus begging for it to end. I didn’t think I’d make it to the end, but finally!!!
Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s): Mr. & Mrs. Khlar.
Lady Esbe read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.
No. No and no and no, no, no.
The only thing that saved this book from owing me cups of tea instead of gaining one tepid, bitter cup of cheap, dusty-bagged Lipton’s is Chapter One. That’s it. The introduction to the batty old witch alone in the woods bemoaning the steady, unstoppable march of time while plotting her next strategy got me.
And then the whole story leapt wholeheartedly onto the express-elevator to hell.
To echo BillMo, this is the longest damn three-hundred-something pages I have ever read. Ever. In my life. If this story had to be told – and I mean like had to be, as in the author was tied up in a basement somewhere and armed kidnappers were screaming at him to make up a story and this was the best he could do under such duress – a lot of the fat could have been trimmed to condense it down to a much more palatable 50 pages: get rid of the wandering in the woods, cut out all the useless orchard crap and the unnecessary young man added in (presumably but ineffectively) to throw the reader off the trail of the real villainous mastermind behind this so-called plot, whittle down the bits with the dad wandering about dazedly and Hansel begging for his sister’s attention, scrape away the chapters wherein the two primary baddies each take a few moments to tell their victims how they came to this arrangement, why they’ve decided this to be the best course of action, how they planned it out, and what they plan to do next.
Mwaha. Mwahaha. Mwahahahahahaaaaaaeeeggggghhhhhh.
The entire story is kicked into motion when a local woman’s vehicle craps out on her while she’s traversing the winding road that leads back through the woods to her humble home, where her spouse and two children anxiously await her return… and for some reason, rather than following the road home or waiting to see if anyone comes by, she decides that bumbling and stumbling through said woods through the night seems like a swell idea.
Our protagonist, who I believe we are supposed to think by the end is a heroic, independent, courageous girl is a high-strung, bratty, bossy, pushy teenager who, like her mother, is full to the brim with some sort of inherited ultra-intuitive gene that, as with her mother, seems to fail her at every moment (except those in which it seems our plucky ladies are about to meet their inevitable dooms, and then, of course, they – gasp – narrowly miss the danger): her dad walks into a room – she screams in surprise; a book falls from its shelf – she screams in surprise; she sees her mom – everyone starts screaming in surprise. The only real heroes in my mind were the elderly neighbors who lived next door to Gretel’s parents’ home: they gave that brat a job after she stole from them, they gave her would-be boyfriend a job when his father wanted to use his connections for his own moustache-twirling evil purposes, they willingly offered Gretel and Hansel sanctuary and protection knowing it might cost them their lives, and, almost more importantly than all the rest, they gave that sulky little dingus a place to ground herself and find her way when she was flailing about lost and confused and alone in the world.
And they did it all without screaming in surprise.
I didn’t even know this was marketed as horror until BillMo said so at our bookclub meeting – I thought it was just a young adult novel of some sort, a sort of contemporary retelling of Hansel & Gretel. To be honest, the scariest part of the whole thing for me was around the 80% mark, when an exchange takes place between two primary characters, and suddenly it becomes clear that during the writing of that particular scene, the damn author forgot the order in which those two characters are supposed to be talking to one another. (Character One is now responding to Character One? And I screamed in surprise.)
I have no quotes. I have no characters I liked. I will not be reading this series or anything else from this author. And this is the part where you scream in surprise.
Elle’s Favorite Character(s): None.
Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.